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March Madness (aka “NBA Trade Deadline”)

Here’s an armchair NBA League Pass fan’s run down of the trade deadline 2011-2012

Dwight Howard opt-ing in for 2012-2013

Dwight Howard is getting traded?

Dwight Howard will NOT opt in. I can’t imagine this happening. It’s not the way this world works. The way NBA contracts and careers are structured, the thing every player wants is guaranteed money. Dwight, if he opts out, is about to sign a 4 year max deal (under the new CBA, used to be 6) with another team. He could get 5 years by signing with Orlando, (used to be 7). If he plays next year, he’s basically on a one year contract; if he blows out a knee, or has some other career altering injury, he’s out of luck. Thats tens of millions left on the table. Ask Greg Oden if guaranteed money matters.

…and if he isn’t going to resign, you have to trade him. I don’t know what Otis Smith and their ownership is thinking, but getting something is better than getting nothing. I’ve been to Orlando. A lot. It’s not a place thats going to attract marquee free-agents, so the Magic are going to go back to hoping they strike gold in the draft. They’ll have plenty of chances as they go 20-62 every year from 2013-2017.

Trade him to New York for Carmelo and Chandler. (they’d do that in a second). Trade him to the Nets for everything they have worth getting (which isn’t much). Get Pau or Bynum and filler. Get Scola/Lowry/Martin and parts from Houston. Get Deng/Noah from Chicago. Get Jordan/Mo Williams/Butler from the Clippers. These scenarios have all been talked to death. Pick one Otis and get cracking.

What they’re going to get for him, is what Cleveland got for LeBron. Nothing (not even the picks they got in the sign and trade, I’m not sure the new CBA rules allow for that stuff as easily). They’re going to be in the basement for the next 5 years. Not only could you get some picks and a young player for Dwight, you could move Turk’s debilitating contract. There’s no silver lining in Orlando. If they let Dwight walk, they’re the new bottom feeders.

Bogut/Ellis

I think this is a solid trade for both teams, but isn’t without risk. It does, however, highlight the interesting plight of NBA executives. Would you rather have your player’s weaknesses be mental or physical?

Ellis is a freak. He can score at will, on anyone, inside or outside. He gets to the line. Just pencil him in for 25 ppg on 45% shooting. Noone in the league can stay in front of him. He stays relatively healthy (looking at you Eric Gordon). It’s not all good news. Ellis gambles WAY too much on defense. He goes for the steal and plays off his man to play the passing lane, giving up open opportunities. It’s assumed that he might not be the best locker room guy. He certainly takes a lot of shots. He has all the physical tools, but it remains to be seen if he can play for a fundamentally sound dictator like Scott Skiles in Milwaukee.

Andrew Bogut is what he is. A defensive anchor. A guy who can get you 20 and 15 on any night, assuming that he can stay on the floor. Talent wise, he’s a top 5 center, and has been for years. I’d take him over anyone not named Bynum or Howard. Its purely a matter of health. If he can stay on the floor, a Bogut/Lee/S Jax/Klay Thompson/Curry lineup is a playoff contender.

I particularly like the move for Golden State, just as I loved the hiring of Jackson, and the drafting of Udoh (who they’ve lost in this trade) and Klay Thompson, but it remains to be seen if they can all get on the court at the same time. At least they’re going to give it a go. If they can, the pacific division just got a lot deeper.

The Knicks

Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the origin of my favorite pseudo-profanity. “Cluster-cuss.” The Knicks find themselves with a bunch of new blood halfway through 2011-2012, but still only one basketball. Clustercuss. Can you imagine the Knicks running their team offense of early 2010-2011, if they still had Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton? With Chandler, Amar’e and Lin? Instead, they added J.R. Smith, 59 year old Baron Davis and Carmelo returned from injury. Bill Simmons likes to write about the “passing gene,” but is there a “black hole gene?” If there is, the Knick’s have 2/5th’s of the starting 5 of the all-blackhole allstars. If Smith or Melo touch the ball, it’s going up. Without conscience. Everytime. It’s amazing to see how much less effective Lin is since the ball stoppers are in the lineup.

At first glance, I’d thought that Lin and Chandler/Amar’e running pick and roll above the key would leave all kinds of weak side single coverage iso situations for Carmelo, but instead of spotting up, waiting for the play to develop, he demands the ball on the wing to start the possession, dribbles out the clock, and shoots a 22 footer with two guys on him. On paper, Carmelo should be able to get 10-15 possessions a game in a preferable situation quite easily, but it has to come in the flow of the game. Fields and Novak could adequately spot up in the corner, meaning not only would Carmelo get the ball out of the pick and roll with room to work, he’d probably get it with the defense moving around trying to find their man. What a great situation for a scorer.

Instead, he takes bad shots, plays NO defense, and more or less does everything possible to sabotage the Knicks game plan.

If I was the Knicks, I’d be trying to figure out how to flip him for Josh Smith. They NEED defense, and they need a guy who will get out in transition. He can play the 3 and 4, he’s as good a weak side shot blocker as there is in the game, and he’s going to bang the offensive glass. All things that Carmelo is incapable of.

When the ball is moving, they have more than enough offense, they just need a post defender to go with Shumpert (who I love as a Trevor Ariza type defender).

Please NY. Trade Carmelo for Josh Smith, and become really fun to watch again. That, or petition the league office to let you use two basketballs, or side by side courts like your local YMCA.

The Clippers

Before this year, I made a bet with a friend that the Clippers would be a higher playoff seed than the Lakers. I feel like I’m going to be paying that off. Luckily its only dinner, so I get off light, but it could have been disastrous. At one point, on paper, this team looked incredible. They were nearly two deep at every position. They picked up value guys for nothing (Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups). They had just the right amount of youth and experience. Athleticism and intelligence. Size and speed.

Of course, I could have never seen that Chauncey would blow out his achilles, that Del Negro just plain can’t manage timeouts and subs, and that Butler would either be completely lights out or unable to hit the freeway from an overpass.

I’ve watched Vinnie not call time outs when he needs to quell the other team’s momentum, when you HAVE to get a defensive/offensive possession switch going late in the 4th, when you have to advance the ball, when you have to call an out of bounds play….and this is all to say nothing of his substitution patterns that bewilder the fans and leave his big men gassed at the end of games.

Then there’s the 2. At first I wasn’t concerned about the shooting guard position. Chauncey was a big guard, and has a nice outside stroke. Mo can get streaky. What I wasn’t taking into consideration, was that shooting guards have to guard the other team’s shooting guard. Watching Caron Butler have to guard the other team’s scorer (while Mo (6’1) and Bledsoe (6’2) play out of position on a big guard or small forward) is troublesome.  They’ve got to be able to find someone to guard a 2 right? We’ve seen some D-league guys come in and contribute, we’ve seen rookies make something of themselves (Travis Leslie where are you!?!?) and we’ve seen a handful of guys get amnestied or released from overseas contracts. I assumed the clippers would snag SOMEONE. Instead they have an awkward rotation of undersized scoring guards who can’t guard their shadow. They HAVE to have the smallest backcourt in the league (though I have not verified this).

The nail in the coffin though, was losing Billups’ savvy in the 4th quarter. He won that Dallas game nearly by himself in the last 2 minutes. They’ve lost a bunch of close games because they just don’t know how to act, (that and blake’s FT shooting is getting so bad, he plays hot potato with the ball in the 4th).

Some of these problems are easier to address than others, and Neil Olshey is a quality GM, but as for now, I fear its just the same old clippers with better names on the back of the jerseys.

The Celtics

And now, my eulogy to the 08-12 Celtics.

When I was a kid, I hated the Celtics. Only now do I feel enough time has gone by (and NBAtv does an awesome job of showing 80′s games) to really appreciate how good those teams were. Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, Ainge. Incredible.

I don’t think I’ve taken a sports loss tougher than the 08 finals beatdown the Lakers took. In june 2008, I was with a friend on a tour in Europe. We knew the finals would be televised, we just had to find them. The games ran from something like 2am to 5:30am UK time. We found a TV in the empty lounge at our hotel or in a pub that was open late, and we stayed up to watch games 1, 2 and 3, sacrificed our jet lagged bodies to watch what we thought would be the Laker’s ascension back to a championship. Instead, our pay off was watching a tougher, hungrier Boston team take it to our injured, undermanned squad. Those loses, plus lost sleep, did not make for good moods.

The 2008 Celtics were the perfect storm. Not only did I loathe the uniform, but I’d always had a sore spot the big 3 even before they were together. It was like this tornado of ill will picked up all the guys I didn’t like in the league and put them all on the same team. I’ve always hated Ray Allen for the absurd notion that he was even in the discussion for being as good as Kobe. I’ve had a distaste for Garnett’s fake tough guy routine. I’m convinced tough little guys like Steve Blake, Chris Paul or Earl Watson would have no problem taking him to the floor if he ever actually backed up all those snears and all that talk with fists. I still hate Paul Pierce’s grimacing face going down the tunnel in the wheel chair and his awkward hobbled run that looks like he’s dragging his frostbite eaten bad leg, with his fused knee “good” leg. Worst of all is his awkward fall away jump shot. If Kobe’s jumper looks like it was crafted by the gods, that Paul Pierce jumper looks like a 58 year old dentist’s at your catholic rec league.

So, in the name of trying to be objective for the sake of this piece. What do you have to do if you’re the GM of an over the hill team, with a major need for cap flexibility and youth? You have to look into blowing it up.

Starting with your PG. Rondo is an enigma. How can you remain that bad of a shooter? Teams GIVE him open 16 footers. He’s been so bad, that I’m convinced that me (the 3rd best player on my middling high school team) could shoot the same percentage of uncontested free throw line jumpers. He can pass, and he can play D, but until teams have to guard him outside of 5 feet from the rim, he shouldn’t be in the conversation for top 5 point guards. How can you build around him as your premiere player when he can’t get you two points when you absolutely need it?

The other guys aren’t so easy to figure out. It’s obvious that the big 3 need to be broken up, parted out, and avenues for bringing in new bodies need to be looked into. Garnett’s contract comes off the books after this year; will he take the pay cut they need him to? Will he hang ‘em up? Will he go play elsewhere?

Ray Allen is the most confusing, because to me, he’s the most valuable to a contender on the short term. If you’re Danny Ainge, why wouldn’t you be shopping Ray Allen to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe or Tristan Thompson and/or a pick? Or to OKC for some future considerations? Or even maybe Minnesota if they think they’re a year away from playing dark horse in the playoffs? Plenty of teams think they’re close enough that they’d take two years of knock down shooting from Ray. I’ve lifted this idea from some other writers I’m sure, but it has to be said.

This brings me to Paul Pierce. I’ve been watching him more than usual, because he’s on my fantasy team this year. I want to hate him, but unfortunately I can’t. He’s the guy who’s been there from the beginning. He was on some BAD teams. He’s had his moments, like everybody does, but all in all, I’m glad he won a ring (albeit, would have loved for it not to come against LA), and I’m glad he’s seen as the leader of that team. Pierce has to retire as a Celtic, has to get his number raised into the rafters, and has to go into the hall. For now, he should have a place on that team until he doesn’t want it anymore. If he wants to play til he’s 40, keep giving him contracts. All the things I hated about him prior to this season, I now find endearing; except the wheelchair. That jumpshot that looked so ugly, now strikes me as the signature move of a proven winner, who stuck it out, and won the right way. I’m starting to almost like him. Maybe in 20 years, like Bird, he’ll be one of my favorites.

Anyways, it’s all wrapping up. Their championship window closed with the final buzzer in 2010. I should be taunting my Celtics fan friends. They got their one championship, but the Lakers got two. At the end of the day though, I’m not as happy to put a fork in the Celtics as I thought I’d be.

- Dan Bailey

Comments

  1. Andy Starr says:

    Melo is a disease…more on that later.

    I think Ellis is JR Smith 2.0

  2. Andy Starr says:

    I can’t remember – did I make that bet with you for dinner? I do remember thinking they’d have a decent regular season, but fizzle come playoffs. The loss of Chauncey Billups is far more devastating than I would have imagined, but seeing him in person against Miami in that OT game at Staples Center, I realized how huge an asset he is.

    Sadly, Paul Pierce is past his prime. Wait, what am I saying here? “Sadly”?! Hey, screw Paul Pierce and his fake-a** wheelchair antics. For a dude who came from LA he oughta know better. And that jumper is hideous…2nd only to Shawn Marion. Einstein rolls over in his grave every time Pierce’s jumper goes in.

    The Lakers may look (or now, post trade, “have looked”) old – but the Celtics look old AND tired. Keep Rondo, send the geezers packing – at least that way they have youth and speed. Jumper or no, Rondo can dish some dimes.

  3. Tyler Gibbs says:

    Screw Boston!!

    1. Andy Starr says:

      Short and to the point. I like it.